UFC 251: Who Is Aljamain Sterling Rooting For – Petr Yan or Jose Aldo?
At one point, a UFC Bantamweight Title tournament looked to be in the works. After Henry Cejudo retired and relinquished the belt, the possibilities were endless. Eventually, the UFC decided to go another route and give a featherweight legend an opportunity at the title.
At UFC 251 on “Fight Island”, Jose Aldo will compete in just his second bantamweight fight. He will face off against top contender Petr Yan for the vacant UFC Bantamweight Title. When Aldo was announced, many were questioning how someone 2-4 in his last six and who lost his bantamweight debut got a title opportunity. Aljamain Sterling, ranked second in the UFC’s bantamweight rankings, was one of those people.
Speaking with MMA Fighting, Sterling (19-3) gave his thoughts on the bout. Since he is not in it, he doesn’t have a preference who wins, as long as he gets the next chance at the title.
“I never wish ill will saying ‘I wish this guy won or this guy lost.’ I really don’t care,” Sterling stated. “The best guy, let them have their night. Let the better man win and whoever I get to face, I’m excited for the opportunity.”
Sterling last fought at UFC 250 in June, beating Cory Sandhagen via rear-naked choke in the first round. It was his first bout since recovering from surgery. On a five-fight win streak, “Funk Master” has been looking to convince management that he can fight for gold. Ray Longo believes he shouldn’t fight again until he gets a title shot.
Scouting both fighters, Sterling can imagine Yan (14-1) having a lot of fun. He also wants to see the best side of Aldo (28-6), the side that dominated the UFC and WEC for years.
“I know those guys used to train with each other so there’s probably some kind of respect factor there,” Sterling stated regarding the bout. “I think when I look at the landscape between those guys and the skill sets, Jose Aldo is very, very well rounded but he has typically shied away from his kicking game, his jiu-jitsu game and primarily just boxes. I think Petr Yan’s going to come through with the kickboxing, the Muay Thai, the clinch game, and the whole package.
“I think Jose Aldo’s really got to pay attention to that and make sure he’s not being one-dimensional and not giving Petr Yan an easy, predictable version of Jose Aldo that’s going to show up that night.”
Yan hasn’t lost a fight since 2016. On a nine-fight win streak, he is 6-0 in the UFC. “No Mercy” last fought in December, beating Urijah Faber via knockout in the third round. Yan has been advocating for active fighters like him to earn title opportunities. This was in part due to Dominick Cruz returning after years away and getting a title shot against Cejudo.
At 33, Aldo is looking for a second life in his career. With 17 wins via knockout, Aldo believes he is right where he belongs.
Regardless of who wins, Sterling is excited at the prospect of facing either fighter.
“If Petr Yan wins, I’ve got my whole team we’re going to plant C4 on his railroad tracks and we’re going to blow that sh*t up,” Sterling stated. “If Petr Yan wins, we’ll be ready to go.
“Jose Aldo’s a legend. He accomplished many great things in his lifetime. To beat a guy like that if he were to come down and win the bantamweight title, even after coming off of a loss. It was a close fight but I did think he won. But if he comes out and wins that fight against a tough, highly touted Petr Yan, I would love to be the guy to take that strap away from him and further cement my name in the bantamweight division. That’s what it’s all about.”
UFC 251 takes place on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. The new main event will be Kamaru Usman v. Jorge Masvidal for the UFC Welterweight Title, while the co-main event will be Alexander Volkanovski v. Max Holloway in a rematch for the UFC Featherweight Title.